Roman Abramovich’s hopes of selling Chelsea FC have been thrown into turmoil as the British government named him among the latest high-net-worth Russian figures living in the UK to face economic sanctions.
The 55-year-old had placed the club up for sale last week, declaring the proceeds would go to those affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Potential suitors had voiced their interest, from MMA’s Conor McGregor to British property tycoon Nick Candy.
However, with no sale being finalised, the West London outfit is now facing a massively uncertain future.
British Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries released a tweet saying that Chelsea FC will be able to continue operating under a ‘special licence’, though it is believed that this will not allow the club to sign new players or hand out new contracts.
Among the players out of contract at the end of this season are regular first-team defenders Antonio Rüdiger and César Azpilicueta.
While it is thought that season ticket holders will be able to continue attending games, any new tickets sales will be barred, including for visiting supporters.
This means that the club is facing the prospect of effectively playing their remaining Champions League and FA Cup games behind closed doors, as these tickets are separate from the standard season ticket that only applies to Premier League games.
According to Forbes, Abramovich’s net worth is around US$12.5bln. Chelsea FC is his most valuable asset in Britain.
Since buying the club in 2003 for $79 million, the Russian has spent more than $2.6 billion on players, been through 15 managers, and won 21 trophies, including five Premier League titles and the Champions League twice.
In 709 games under his ownership, Chelsea has won 432, drawn 153, and lost 124, and collectively accumulated more points in the Premier League than any other club.
Just last month the club won the Club World Cup for the first time and lost to Liverpool on penalties in the Carabao Cup final.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said the aim is to ensure that Abramovich cannot ‘benefit from his ownership of the club’.
As well as Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich’s other assets include stakes in Russian airline Aeroflot, the Château de la Croë Mansion once occupied by King Edward after he abdicated the British throne and a ranch in the US.
Abramovich has repeatedly denied that he has done anything to merit being sanctioned.
It is impossible to talk about the Premier League over the past twenty years without discussing Roman Abramovich.
When he took over ‘Chelski’, as they were often dubbed, he introduced a new style of football club owner — cutthroat with his management team, focussed on success, and happy to splash the cash.
What the future holds for Chelsea FC in the almost-post-Abramovich era, remains to be seen. VNS